Europe As soon as Had Its Personal Big Pandas, And They Did not Eat Bamboo

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Big pandas weren’t all the time native solely to China – and so they did not all the time love bamboo.

A pair of fossilized panda enamel, initially present in northwestern Bulgaria, suggests these lovable bears as soon as roamed throughout Europe the place they devoured up a lot softer vegetation than their trendy cousins.


The Bulgarian gnashers don’t belong to a direct ancestor of right this moment’s large pandas however to a detailed relative that lived roughly 6 million years in the past on the jap fringe of Europe.

Specialists say this species would have been about the identical dimension or barely smaller than right this moment’s large pandas.

Judging by the fabric wherein the fossil was discovered, the traditional panda seemingly lived in a swampy forest and feasted on vegetation. 

In contrast to trendy pandas, nevertheless, the cusps of its enamel don’t seem robust sufficient to pulverize the woody stems of bamboo. As an alternative, its meal of alternative was seemingly one thing softer.

But its enamel had been suited to more durable meals than older associated species – a discovery that matches properly with the concept trendy large pandas advanced from a carnivorous bear to fill an ecological area of interest tens of millions of years in the past.

“The seemingly competitors with different species, particularly carnivores and presumably different bears, explains the nearer meals specialization of large pandas to vegetable meals in humid forest situations,” says paleontologist Nikolai Spassov from Bulgaria’s Nationwide Museum of Pure Historical past.


Big pandas are sometimes mentioned to be residing fossils as a result of they’ve modified so little or no all through their evolutionary historical past. But that does not imply their household tree is a straight shoot.

Actually, there are such a lot of disparate branches that researchers are having a tricky time weaving them collectively.

It’s doable that enormous pandas advanced in Europe from carnivorous bears earlier than they headed eastward. However it’s also doable they originated in Asia, whereas one other department unfold to Europe and went extinct.

The probably relative of contemporary large pandas lived in China 8 million years ago. However just lately, the fossilized enamel of a panda-like creature had been unearthed in Hungary and dated again an extra 2 million years.

There’s all the time an opportunity an older fossil will probably be discovered someday, however based mostly on these dates, it’s seemingly that pandas originated in Europe earlier than transferring eastward.

Named Agriarctos nikolovi after the Bulgarian paleontologist Ivan Nikolov who first cataloged the enamel within the Nineteen Seventies, this newly described species might have been one in every of Europe’s final pandas. 

“Big pandas are a really specialised group of bears,” explains Spassov.


“Even when A. nikolovi was not as specialised in habitats and meals as the fashionable large panda, fossil pandas had been specialised sufficient and their evolution was associated to humid, wooded habitats. It’s seemingly that local weather change on the finish of the Miocene in southern Europe, resulting in aridification, had an antagonistic impact on the existence of the final European panda.”

Clearly, the household background of the large panda shouldn’t be so black and white.

The examine was printed within the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.


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